Tuesday, 24 August 2010

30 Years of Bad Religion and still going strong

O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, doors open at 7pm, 23rd August 2010.

At about 6.40, after a fairly stress-filled coach and tube ride to the theatre, I, my brother and my best friend were queuing outside, waiting for the doors to open. We weren't too far from the front of the queue, but because of the road accident between Stratford and Bow, my brother and I weren't able to start the queue.

When Jay Bentley, the bassist, walked past the queue, unnoticed by many, my best friend started squeeing and turned to us exclaiming he thought that was he.

We finally got in, took in the clothes on sale in the hall, and went up to get front row seats on the level 1 balcony, just above the later moshing crowd.

The support band came on at 8 - the original band had been cancelled, so this felt rather impromptu. Two saxophonists that were rarely heard over the drums, yelling vocalist, two tone guitar and bassist. Of the lot, it seemed the bassist was the only one with talent - the saxophones were in tune with each other, but jarred with what was supposed to be heavy rock ska.

Finally, Bad Religion, headed by Bentley and Graffin came on to the stage to cheering, and they opened the set with 'Do What You Want'.

From there on, they played a selection from across their 30 years of album-making, with 'Generator' (Best friend's favourite), 'New Dark Ages', 'Sinister Rouge', with a few from No Control, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? and even two from Grey Race.

They ended with 'Sorrow', the entire audience singing/yelling along. The hall was vibrating with noise and energy - the most lack lustre moment being when the ''we want more'' chants of the audience died out relatively quickly, since they knew that they'd come back on in a minute.

Greg Graffin, the lead singer, is pretty well known by his utter lack of imagination when walking the stage in a circle, his hand motions and attempt to perform the songs without just standing there motionless - something that would be even worse. But I thought last night he was brilliant and even enjoyed it. They were clearly loving performing for us, and he played with the band rather than sang with them, in some ways conducting them (though they weren't watching him) and in others using great facial expressions and pointing at the audience.

Of course the playing was flawless and the only difference I could note at the time to any of the usual ways of playing a song was perhaps the key of Dearly Beloved, not that that made any difference to the fact that we were singing along, or to how great a song it is.
They mostly played music, but once or twice, Greg talked to the crowd, first to celebrate 30 years, then to say how much he enjoyed playing here and how close to the fans he could be, and once to try to dedicate Germs of Perfection to 'our dear friend Hooker', which upon research was most likely the botonist and friend of Charles Darwin, Joseph Dalton Hooker.

Crowd surfing was dealt with by the security at the front of the stage, all glowering sternly at the crowd and manhandling any that got above himself (and other people) back to the side of the standing area. Was quite fun to watch, really. =P

The variety of people in the crowd was surprising, too: you had the bald middle aged men in their old black shirts; their older-but-clearly-a-punk-listening girlfriend/wives; younger punks with spectacular mohawks and jackets; girls with dyed hair; girls with natural hair and even pretty mainstream clothing, looking as though they'd come from a shopping mall more than they'd come specially for a gig. My brother had judged me, it felt, when he saw me in my black strap top, relatively pale blue jeans and only my best friend's punk belt indicating where I was going. He was in his Cambridge Rock Festival shirt and black jeans, and looked pretty normal,  but I guess he felt I should at least try harder. But in the end it was quite clear I could have gone in a pretty pink dress and ballet slippers and whilst there might be some surprise, it wouldn't have been noticed for long.

Definitely one of the best performances I'll ever see.

Played (in not this order):
21st Century Digital Boy, Along the Way, American Jesus, The Answer, Atomic Garden, Before You Die, Dearly Beloved, Do What You Want, Flat Earth Society, F*** Armageddon... this is Hell., Generator, Germs of Perfection, I Want to Conquer the World, Infected, Los Angeles is Burning, New Dark Ages, No Control, Punk Rock Song, Recipe for Hate, Requiem for Dissent, Sanity, Sinister Rouge, Sorrow, Suffer, A Walk, We're Only Gonna Die

 How Bad Religion came into my life

About three years ago, I started dating this boy who was absolutely nuts about them - in fact, he even said that I shouldn't hate him if he offered to do Greg any sexual favours. 
He always has his music on in his room, and on the bus, so it was inevitable that I'd start to recognise individual songs or bands in his punk repertoire.
One song in particular I really liked was the live performance recording of Cease at the Silver Wings Club, played on the piano. After that, too, I used a website called RadioBlog to listen to other songs by Bad Religion, and got to know quite a few of the ''softer'' songs - 'Punk Rock Song', 'Drunk Sincerity', 'Sinister Rouge', and a few others. Really surprised him when I was humming 'Drunk Sincerity' in a corridor at college, but I think it pleased him.
I listened to it at his house, and when I bought him a special ed copy of New Maps of Hell on release, we watched the dvd, and I pinched quite a few of the songs off him. The acoustic versions in particular I loved (though now I listen to the original versions more often).

In fact, that's how I also discovered some Ska, when he began to listen to Reel Big Fish, and the like.
Unfortunately for him, I don't like Rancid so much, and I think Anti-Flag is only so so depending on the song, and I only really listen to the album Wolves in Wolves Clothing by NOFX.

So off of Sam I acquired the full discography of Bad Religion, and with it an affection and admiration for their music. I won't lie, I'm not a punk mosher, and I probably look at its musicality and lyrics a bit more than he ever did (well, the musicality, yes, since I did GCSE Music and play instruments myself) but Bad Religion will be one of the bands that keeps us together and in touch. Which is quite special to me. 
Apart from that, I think they totally rock. =P

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